The musician and author Spartacus R., one of the founding members of the acclaimed 70s band Osibisa, passed away on 30 July 2010 after battling cancer. He was 61.
Born Roy Bedeau in Aruba, West Indies, Spartacus moved to London with his family at the age of 12. His musical career began in earnest in 1969 as a founder member of Osibisa, where he played bass guitar, percussion and vocals.
Fusing rhythms from Africa with rock and jazz, Osibisa played a central role in developing an awareness of African music among European and North American audiences in the 1970s, bringing it into the pop music mainstream. Spartacus wrote, co-wrote and produced many of the songs on the band’s first 3 albums, Osibisa, Woyaya and Heads. Osibisa was released in 1971, reaching number 11 in the UK album charts. The album cover artwork featured a flying elephant emerging from a primeval forest and became a classic of its time.
Woyaya and Heads followed suit in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Woyaya reached number 11 in the UK and Art Garfunkel later covered its title track in 1976.
Spartacus left Osibisa in 1972 after the Heads album was released. He continued to pursue music as a solo artist, setting up Zara Music Records and producing albums Third World War, Freedom First, and Africa I See. He also collaborated with other artists, providing background vocals on Eddy Grant’s 1979 hit Walking on Sunshine amongst other projects.
From the 1980s until the time of his passing, Spartacus carved out another career as a human rights activist, writer and teacher, travelling the world and sharing platforms with celebrated speakers including Jesse Jackson and Paul Boateng, MP.
In 1997 Spartacus founded GAP Radio, an internet radio station with an international audience, addressing concerns and issues confronting the African community. He was also an acclaimed writer and at the time of his passing he was in the process of having one of his scripts developed into a film.
He is survived by 5 brothers and sisters, 8 children and 5 grandchildren.